A Star is born

Rock Star

Directed by Stephen Herek

(Mark Wahlberg, Jennifer Aniston, Jason Flemyng, Timothy Olyphant)

Rated: R

 

Destined to die within cliches and mundane expectations, Rock Star finds a strange momentum in its rock ‘n’ roll dream. Just when assumption says it should be falling apart, its melodrama becomes more touching than ever, ultimately shaping a film about much more than any band and more poetic than any song on the radio.

On the surface, John Stockwell’s story is a reality check for the celebrity-obsessed fans of Entertainment Tonight, Access Hollywood and the sort. These are the ones following celebrities’ every move, keeping the paparazzi employed and dreaming of someday having the problems of the filthy rich.

Chris Cole (Mark Wahlberg) is one of those dreamers. A die-hard fan of the heavy metal band Steel Dragon, he’s the frontman of, what he terms, a “tribute band.” He’s a great singer, and while his long-time girlfriend Emily (Jennifer Aniston) believes in him, he shields himself from risk by limiting his talent to covers of Steel Dragon’s greatest hits.

As fortune would have it, when Steel Dragon’s lead singer quits, the band looks for a replacement. A tape of Cole’s performance earns him a flight to L.A. and an audition gives him the chance to live out his dream-center stage as the frontman to his favorite band.

While the story exists in the world of rock ‘n’ roll, its messages reach out to anyone who has dreamed of success in their given field. Whether a person is a basketball fan, a television fanatic, a law student, an aspiring architect or a film critic, Rock Star poses the possibility of actually reaching that distant horizon of fame. What would you do? How would you react? Would that life live up to expectations?

As Cole experiences the world of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll, director Stephen Herek (Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure) beautifully portrays the transition to now being the one admired and followed. Cole, defined by his love of music, so simply seen and felt on stage as a no one, is consumed by the off-stage antics of a somebody.

In the midst of this overrated world are Cole and Emily. If not for the surprisingly moving performances by Wahlberg and Aniston, Rock Star would have remained only a tale about a band and a dreamer. With them, it becomes a truly touching exploration of an imperfect fantasy.

Yes, Cole’s fall from grace is expected, loading the cynic’s shotgun upon walking out of Rock Star. For many, however, Herek’s focus on these ordinary people, as they recapture their joy from the grips of the almighty dollar, will unexpectedly warm that place in the heart most films no longer reach.

-S.S.